How To Fix Common Internal French Folding Door Problems
Folding French doors are offered in a range of sizes and are a popular choice for people who want the flexibility to switch between open-plan living and a more cosy layout. Most French doors are glass doors that let light flow between the two rooms. They fold and slide, and have a tracked layout to guide the doors and make them easy to move.
Because of their size and relative ‘complexity’, it’s important that French doors are hung correctly. Here, we will explore some common issues that people have with French doors, and how to fix them.
How Can I Soundproof My Folding French Doors?
Most interior French folding doors are hollow, and this means that sound can pass through them quite easily. The way that French doors are hung, with a guide rail, also means that there’s a little extra space where sound can travel freely. You can purchase folding French doors that are soundproof by design, but if you already have a set of doors that you like, then why not try soundproofing them first.
It’s quite easy to soundproof folding French doors, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. All you’ll need is some:
- Lead tape
- Closed cell tape
- Quilting and insulation
- A draught excluder
Inspect the area were the door meets the frame, and make sure that it fits snugly. If there are any gaps around the door, you can plug these with closed cell tape.
Fit a small draught excluder at the bottom of the door, so that the rubber/brush part covers the gap between the door and the floor.
Check the cavity around the door and fill it with insulation if necessary.
Consider using quilting to cover the door, to add an extra layer of both thermal and noise insulation. Many people use thick curtains for this purpose because they are both decorative and functional. If you have French doors with glass panels, the glass will often be glazed so this will help prevent noise travelling.
These fixes will also help to keep out any draughts, making your rooms warmer.
My Doors Let Too Much Light Through!
Following on with the curtain theme, curtains, shutters or blinds can be a handy way of blocking out light, too.
Many French doors are either glass from top to bottom, or have several smaller panes of glass in them. In the summer, when you want to bask in the warmth of the sun and enjoy the view outside, that’s ideal. In the winter, when the sun is low in the sky and achieves little other than creating an annoying glare while you’re trying to work inside, you’ll want to block some of that sunlight out.
You have a few options here. Decorated glass panels or frosted glass can filter out some of that sunlight, and are a nice choice for modern homes if you want to combine ‘soft light’ with the privacy that frosted glass offers. The downside of this kind of glass is that it isn’t clear, and it can’t be changed easily – so you’re making a conscious decision to never be able to see through those windows.
Window dressings are more versatile. You can raise and lower the blinds, open the shutters or tie back the curtains when you want to be able to see out of the door. You can swap the curtains out depending on what colours you want to match your interior decorating. In addition, window dressings add an extra layer of insulation, which can muffle sounds, keep heat in during the winter, and help to keep your rooms cooler in the summer too.
How do I remove fingerprints or Smudge Marks from Glass?
Glass panels look beautiful when they’re clean, but they show streaks, smudges and fingerprints quite easily! The good news is that you don’t need to spend money on expensive detergent to clean your folding French doors.
You can remove streaks and smudges from glass by wiping the window down with a spray made from a solution of eight parts water and one part vinegar, with a dash of washing up liquid. Spray the solution onto the window, and then wipe it down with a crumpled up newspaper. The newspaper is soft enough that it won’t damage the glass, but slightly abrasive, so it lifts the grease off the window with ease. Buff with a soft, lint-free cloth for a pristine finish.
How Do I fix Doors that Squeak or Creak?
Squeaky hinges are a common problem with any kind of door, external patio doors as well as folding French doors. The most common way to treat a squeaky door is with a lubricating oil. The most well-known brand of spray-on oil is WD-40, but other brands will do the job as well. Simply spray the oil onto the hinge and open and close the door a few times. You should find that there is an instant improvement in how well the door moves.
If aerosol oil doesn’t do the trick, then the hinge could be damaged. If the hinge is one of those ‘pin style’ ones, then remove the round pin that holds the plates together, clean it with some wire wool, and then check to make sure that the pin is straight. If the pin is bent then carefully straighten it out with a hammer. Next, check the hinge itself to make sure that it’s free from dirt (use a long nail to scrape out any paint or dust that has accumulated in the hole). Put the pin back in place, and see how the door feels (and sounds) when you move it.
Remember that your door has more than one hinge, so you may have to repeat this process several times. If the hinges are very tight, and WD-40 or another similar spray-on lubricating oil isn’t doing the job, consider rubbing Vaseline into the hinges. This is a thicker lubricant and as such it is more likely to provide lasting benefit.
If none of these treatments work, then you may need to replace the hinges.
My Door Scrapes the Floor When I Open It
If you have had the same French folding doors for several years, then they may start to scrape the floor, sag, or even drop out of the rails/brackets. The good news is that this is an easy problem to fix, and with some basic maintenance you can get your doors tightened up, and keep them a pleasure to use for many years.
To fix a door that sags and scrapes across the floor, you’ll need to tighten up the hinges, and fix the top bracket as well. Ideally, your folding doors should have a 1/8th of an inch vertical gap between them, and an even space running along the top so that they don’t hit the jambs or the floor. To fix the doors, you will need:
- A 4-in-1 screwdriver
- An adjustable wrench
- Needle nose pliers
- Silicone based lubricant
Begin by loosening the set screw which is located at the end of the top bracket. Slide the bracket slightly along the track – this will allow you to adjust the space between the top of the door. Tighten the screw and test the fit. You will need to do this for each door.
Next, adjust the position of the door in relation to the floor bracket. There is a pin in each of the bottom floor brackets, that lets you adjust the vertical gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. There are two main styles of bottom bracket. One version requires you to lift the door, then drop the pin into a different notch on the bracket to adjust the height. The other version requires you to loosen the screw and then slide it in or out. If you’re not sure what style you have, check the documentation that came with the door.
You can use the bottom pin to adjust the height of the door. With some designs, you will need to use a wrench to adjust the door, with others, you will need to use pliers. To make the job as easy as possible, carefully lift the door out of the track, and put shims underneath it to support the weight.
Once you have adjusted the height of the door, test it to see if it moves freely. If it does, then your job is done. If it no longer scrapes across the floor, but still feels stiff and difficult to move, then it could be that there is dirt in the tracks impeding the movement, or that the hinges are stiff. You should clean the tracks of your folding doors regularly to stop them from sticking. Simply vacuuming in the track with the correct narrow-nosed attachment will prevent a lot of problems. In addition, make lubricating the hinges with some WD-40 or a similar brand of aerosol lubricating spray a part of your maintenance routine, so that the hinges always move freely.
My Door Swings Closed after Opening
If your door swings closed after opening, then this usually means that the hinge is not aligned correctly. Adjusting the hinges can fix this. With some door designs, this simply means tightening the screw in the hinge, with others, you will need to remove the pin and bend it slightly. Remember there will be two (sometimes three) hinges on each side. If a door is swinging shut, it is usually the top hinge that is out of alignment, leaving the door out of plumb.
If the door is far out of plumb, or the hinges aren’t directly above each other, then you may need to move the entire hinge leaf. You can test the alignment of the hinges (and the door) using a makeshift plumb line (a piece of string and a weight will do). Mark the position where the hinge should go, drill new pilot holes, and then replace the hinge and test the movement of the door.
I’m Worried About My Child Running Into The Door
Young children are inquisitive, but they’re not always that observant and they lack the understanding of the world to know that there are things that are ‘solid’ that you can see through. When a child is just learning to walk and run they might run into a glass door. A child is unlikely to break safety glass, but bumped heads are no fun!
You can alert your child to the presence of the glass by adding stickers to it, especially at around eye level to them. One of the most common childproofing techniques is to add stickers to the glass. There are lots of wall and window sticker options to choose from, and they can be a smart, visually appealing addition to the door, even matching your wallpaper or existing decor. Alternatively, you could opt for frosted glass doors to make the panels more noticeable.
While it's not uncommon that your home will need some adjustment over its lifespan, making sure its installed properly can minimise many problems. Check out our guide on how to install french doors.